zaterdag 17 oktober 2009

Sunday lunch at the Quatro Vientos

Howdy Cebolla,

It sure has been a while since I wrote something on this blog. You were right busy with the dachshund and other very interesting things.

I read both of your blogs. The Italian place sounds great. The afternoon woth the kids let me put it nicely sort of fun. I guess you'd rather make pumpkin soup here at Casa el Naranjo.

Between all my busy work we went out to a nice restaurant here in Spain named the Quatro vientos. We have been there before, to eat some tapas and because the tapas were so nice we decided to go back for lunch.

A good choice I might say. The boys ordered paella. Must say excellent. The rice was perfect, the filling (fish) just enough. I had the quatro vientos plato. A nice piece of lomo (pork) pepper, egg, chorizo and suprisingly good chips. Surprisingly because here in Spain the chips are normally very bad. You can say they look like long strips of very young cheese and they tast like a soggy sponge.
The other two had a very nice lambchop. Very tender meat.
As desert I had the home made arroz con leche. Thas was ok but a little bit to sweet for my taste. All in all the food, the service, the nicely set tables, atmosphere I would rate it 8,5 peppers.

Yesterday I made home made chips for the guests an us. I must say there we definitely worth 9 peppers. You can try them in December. See what you think about it.

Thats it for now. I really hope you got your energy back after your cooking class with the kids.


vrijdag 16 oktober 2009

The True Purpose of Pumpkins at Halloween

It is nearly Halloween. The time when kids go trick-or treating and people maul and manhandle poor, helpless pumpkins by carving them into evil, grinning masks with teeth that could have used a visit to the orthodontist and a few good braces.

But besides carving up pumpkins for Jack-o'-lanterns, they can also be used for food. In fact, it's preferable.

Preferable unless..... You are cooking a pumpkin recipe with........ KIDS!!!!

This is what I did on October 15th 2009, at 13.00 o'clock 'till 15.00 o'clock as part of a team consisting of 5 adults (teacher, 3 mothers and me) and 21 kids, aged around 8 years old. Good Grief!!!

The menu was simple enough. Salad, pumpkin/parsnip soup with bread and garlic butter and marshmallows dipped in melted chcolate.
The only drawback was that the kids had to make it and we were there to help and supervise them.

Teacher Miek had already prepared the pupmpkins beforehand, having peeled, cooked and mashed them to a thick, bright orange, puree.
What was left was to make the garlic butter, slice bread, make the salad and the marshmalow treats and make the soup: peel, dice and cook the parsnips (= pastinaak), add the pumpkin puree.
Does not seem like much, but Mount Everest does not seem that big either, if you stand away far enough from it.

I was on the garlic butter station. Have you ever tried to make garlic butter with 5 very active kids all at once? No??? Lucky you.
Peeling garlic is a hurdle. It takes some skill to take the skin off the garlic and these cloves did their very best to keep their skins on. Slipping out of small hands and escaping from onder dull knives (can't have sharp knives + kids). That Garlic saw all of the kitchen. Bouncing off the counter, hitting the walls and other kids and skidding over the floor. Finally being stopped by a heavy kid's foot stomping on it.
Well, on the plus side, the garlic clove was peeld and crushed.

Does your young son love putting gell in his hair? Listen ladies, you can save on hair gell expenses by using butter or margerine. Just get them to mash the cubes of butter with a fork to a paste and you'll have a head of hair so greasy, you can butter your whole loaf bread with it.
How hair can find it's way into butter is known. But how butter can find it's way onto 5 children's heads in 10 seconds is nothing short of a miracle. Of course, flicking bits of butter at each other from a fork does help the proces. Wiping your sweaty brow (yes, mashing soft butter cubes with a fork is hard work) with a buttery hand is even better.
But okay, the garlic butter was finally made (if you like big chunks of stomped-on garlic in your butter, I'll send you the left-overs).

Similar stuff happened with the parsnips and the iceberg lettuce and tomatoes but I was too busy trying to maintain some semblance of control at the butter station to see that. Besides, those kids were not in my group, so it was not my problem.

Of course, wearing a helmet might be advisable if one does not like hard bits of parsnip hitting one's nose.

Melting chocolate in a microwave can be dangerous too. Especially if you leave some wrapping paper among the broken up chocobits. Did you know those bits of paper can catch fire in the micro wave? No? Well now you do!
So always check that your chocolate bits are paper and foil free. Unless, of course, you like Choc. trés flambé and/or want a new micro wave, or even a new kitchen.

Well, finally the soup was made, the salad was ready and the bread and garlic butter was foot print and hair free.
The table had been set... sort of... and everyone could get down to the serious business of eating.
Luckily that went well. The kids were proud of their work and ate the soup or at least tasted it before screwing up their face and saying they did not like pumpkin and all the bread and butter was gone.
The marshmallows went down well too.
The mothers loved those! They would have fought the kids for them, but luckily there was enough and also, they licked the chocolate out of the empty bowl after they'd helped the kids dip the marshmallows.

After the meal the kitchen was cleaned up,as was the dining area and everything was left just as neat and tidy as when we arrived.

Everyone went home with a smile on their face, albeit mine was a bit forced.

When I arrived home I sat and stared at the wall for about 30 minutes. Just being Zen... Or recovering from shell-shock.

In all, it was good day, but I made teacher Miek promise me that she'd never ask me for this kind of help again because I'd then suddenly have to go away on business to Outer Mongolia for at least a month.


zondag 11 oktober 2009

Dinner in the Roman Empire

It's been a while since this blog had anything to eat, so I thought I'd better do something about it before I get charged with Blog cruelty.Of course I'm not the only caretaker of ths Blog. A certain ms. Egg Plant could have also fed this poor blog, but it appeares she has been a tad busy feeding human guests and creating witches with dachshunds.

Hmmmmm.... Makes you wonder what the blazes is going on there....I hope I got everything in the right order and that it's not: feeding the witches with homans and dachshunds.....

Oh well...

A few weeks ago, I had dinner at an Italian restaurant called Imperio Romano.It'sin The Hague (of course). There are 2 Imperios.One is a true restaurant as in pricey and upper crust-like. They don't serve mundane, plebean food like pizza or pasta.
That restaurant serves excellent food with more expensive ingredients, such as truffels, lobster, caviar etc. So don't forget to upgrade your Credit Card when you go to eat there.

The other Imperio is just a few metres away from the first one and does serve pizza, pasta,gnocci and all the food one normally associates with an Italian restaurant. Though we had been to Imperio 1, we had yet to visit numer 2. That was just what we did a few weeks ago.

It was absolutely great! I had a fish soup for starters and my partner had a tuna carpaccio. The soupwaswell stoicked with shellfish and prawns and had good, meaty fish in it.Just the way a soup should be. Those French would have been blasted outta the mediteranean with their bouillabaise!
To keepthings fishy, I ordered a spaghetti with vongole, tiny clams. Mmmmm. Just right.
Miek had sea bream encrusted in sea salt. Excellent as well.
Wine was a Pinot Griggio.
Desert was very un-italian like: a coffee with a liqeur, Frangelico, which is a light, caramel liqeur. Not too sweet, not too sticky.

The bill was about 45 euro PP.

Of course, you can make spaghetti al vongole and the salt encrusted sea bream at home too, because these are simple to make.

for 1 portion, take a handful of small clams and boil them in salted water until they open. Drain and cool.
Make a light tomato sauce by glazing a small finely chopped onion, likewise 1 clove of garlic and some salt/pepper in 1 tbsp of hot olive oil. Add 1 large, peeled and diced tomato and a small glass of good white wine. Let te sauce reduce to about 2/3 so that the tomatoes are soft and can be roughly crushed with a fork. Add clams and mix in with the spaghetti, which you have boiled al dente, of course. Add a bit of chopped parsely over the dish and voilá. Done.

The fish is even simpler. Take 1 small, whole, cleaned and scaled sea bream, place in an oven dish. Pack tightly with very coarse sea salt and place in a hot oven (220 degrees) for about 30 min. Take the dish out of the oven. The salt will have hardened over the fish.
Take asmall hammer and a chisel to ctack open the salt crust, remove it from the fish. The fish will be well done but still moist.
Carefully filet the flesh from the bone with a spoon and fork, taking care not to damage the fish and place on the plate. Eat with pommes duchesse or small diced, fried potatoes sprinkled with finely chopped parsely and mixed greens or a salad.

Buono apetito!